If you’re a fan of Rick and Morty, there’s a good chance you’ve come across some articles, videos, or comments in recent months about how part of the show’s fanbase fundamentally doesn’t understand Rick.
Perhaps you’ve heard that Rick is a nihilist or a sociopath, and that, as the audience, you shouldn’t actually like him.
I think anyone who takes this view — that the audience shouldn’t like Rick because he’s an amoral egomaniac– is making an incorrect assumption about why fans seem drawn to him. I’ll explain why…
First off, I’m not disputing that Rick is pretty despicable. He’s shown time and time again how little things mean to him. And by things, I mean his family, those who should matter the most. But he doesn’t care (or doesn’t seem to), and at times he even shows some of that same dispassionate contempt for himself.
So why do we enjoy spending so much time with him? Well, there are a few reasons.
First, the show isn’t going to have a central character that you actively loathe. This isn’t the Big Bang Theory. The writers and creators know what makes us like (and if not like, at least feel sympathetic towards) a character. There are a few key traits that you can find in a wide number of morally questionable but ultimately compelling characters, and Rick has more than his share:
- Freedom from norms
- Being an underdog
- Flaw(s) to overcome
We like smart characters, those that can overcome obstacles not with brute force, but with their wits. And Rick is presented as basically the smartest there is, perhaps even the smartest of all the infinite versions of Rick.
Think of other hyper-intelligent characters in popular culture: Tony Stark, Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Reed Richards… in each case, it could be argued that their intelligence is their greatest asset (being super wealthy for Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne is probably a close second). Interestingly, it has the potential to stand in the way of a character being truly virtuous, and that is certainly the case with Rick: his intelligence, while it is endearing and entertaining, makes him a worse person. It contributes to his flaw, which we will get to shortly.
But there’s no denying that we like to see a character outsmart their opponent instead of relying on brute force.
Freedom From Norms
This is an easy one, with no shortage of examples of character free from the normal restrictions of social mores and laws. Characters who are unbound in this way tap into something in us, something perhaps a little dark: a fantasy to throw off the shackles of our society, however mundane or benevolent those shackles may be.
Rick, knowing that there is an infinite number of realities, and being able to traverse those realities, is ostensibly freed from any attachments to his ‘home’ reality. And knowing there are limitless worlds to inhabit, shows, at best, apathy for the laws of Earth.
And the show’s creators are keenly aware that there are a slew of characters that people love despite being amoral or downright evil.
Think of the Joker, Walter White, Hannibal Lecter, Dr. Manhattan, and Tyler Durden. All of these characters operate outside of the law and either flaunt or subvert what we would consider moral behaviour. This alone may not make a character likable, but it certainly makes them compelling and interesting.
Being an underdog
For whatever reason, people like to root for the little guy, the David against Goliath. The local business vs the box store.
But at first glance, Rick doesn’t seem to be an underdog. He has repeatedly shown how much he’s in control of things (as much as he cares to be, in any case) – the most recent and perhaps most noteworthy case is where he dukes it out with the President of the United States just to prove a point. Another instance is his declaration — followed by the demonstration, at the beginning of season 3 — that he is the “Rickest” of the Ricks. The paragon. That’s doesn’t sound like an underdog.
But there are just as many cases where Rick is set upon, and it’s up to just him (and Morty, to a degree) to save the day. Think about it. Rick vs the Federation. Rick vs the Council of Ricks. Rick vs the alien scammers from season one. Rick vs a houseful of alien parasites. As many times as he is the aggressor or the interloper, he has the odds stacked against him.
And let’s not forget the most over-arching of all of his struggles: Rick vs the crushing indifference of an infinite number of realities. This may be an internal struggle as much as an external one, however it’s one that makes underdogs out of us all.
A character’s flaws – their shortcomings, their internal struggles, and their demons – are perhaps the most important aspect of a character. Without flaws, you’ve got a very limited character arc. In my fantasy trilogy, the War of Histories, two of the central characters each have their own flaws to overcome: Osmun and his arrogance, and Zayd with his blind devotion.
Flaws are important because we want to see characters overcome them. We want them to triumph. And in Rick’s case, we want him to redeem himself. Everyone loves a redemption arc; consider Jaime Lannister’s multitudinous flaws at the beginning of Game of Thrones. Over the course of the show, he has evolved and became the hero that no one thought he could be.
As it is, the show has given us very little to hope for in this regard. Rick is constantly showing that nothing matters to him, but if this was really true, he would be uninteresting and two-dimensional, and for such an intelligent show, I don’t think this is the sort of fundamental mistake the writers or creators would make.
Yes, Rick does overwhelmingly come off as the monster, but there are times where we get brief glimpses of the humanity that he’s trying to hard to pretend doesn’t exist.
We get a glimpse of this after his breakup with Unity. We see it when his eyes well up with tears during his first encounter with Evil Morty. We see it when he sacrifices himself for Morty in “A Rickle in Time” (season 2 episode 1). We see it when he a ‘detoxified’ Rick easily shows affection for Morty in season three.
These are just flashes, of course. Overwhelmingly, Rick comes off as a cold villain. But the seeds are there for his redemption, which is part of the reason we keep coming back.
Hey there! If you enjoy this rough draft of chapter one of my new series, please leave a comment with your thoughts! Thanks for stopping by.
It began, as many things do in the shadow of the sky kingdom, with something that fell from above. Anything that came from up on high, from the king’s realm that blocked the sun for many hours of the day, was sought with greater covetousness than anything the undercity possessed or would ever possess.
Kali had never seen something fall from the upper kingdom before, though she had heard of such things many times. Often they were of little practical use; baubles lost or tossed over the side of the sky kingdom by careless and carefree nobles and friends of the king.
Sometimes they were pieces of earth from the underside of the kingdom itself, chipped away by wind or by some intrepid explorers from the undercity who traversed the dangerous Stone Forest so they could claim a piece of the kingdom, a piece of the divine.
Sometimes they were people who fell; soldiers from the king’s army; drunken aristocrats (careless again); or those same intrepid explorers who could not properly navigate the Stone Forest and fell. Kali imagined that they fell not looking down, but looking up, seeing their ultimate goal fall away, out of their grasp, further and further unto forever.
However useless the object were that occasionally rained upon the countless denizens of the undercity, they were nonetheless coveted and revered as if they were sent down to them from the hand of the king himself as a gift, a blessing, a message of hope that they, too, might one day be Elevated and live near him in the kingdom.
But Kali knew better. It was all simple chance and misfortune. The king did not care of them. In fact, he barely acknowledged their existence, only sending his soldiers to the undercity to claim those who showed any sort of magical aptitude or to kill those who extended the city out from under the kingdom to the point where the king could see it.
The soldiers descended on those people quite harshly indeed. The king would not have his pristine view despoiled. Many said that, at the top of his tower, he could see the until the horizon – pure, untouched land. So it was, apparently, with every other king in every other tower. They were the pinnacle of creation, and seeing the activity of the peasants in the undercity displeased them greatly.
Kali did not know how many of the countless peasants in the cramped, filthy, violent undercity knew of the king’s true disposition towards them. Not many, she thought. Too many of them looked up to that great shadow in the sky and worshiped, praying for a blessing, some small mote of fortune to Elevate them, to take them out of the squalor.
Not many thought as she did.
The kings were a scourge, a sickness of humanity that needed to be cured.
She had believed it for years, but it was not that belief alone that led her to join the resistance. And when Galain appeared, after spending untold months in mourning, with something that had fallen from above, Kali finally let herself believe she could see the death of the kings – or at least one of them – in her lifetime.
The death of the man who had murdered her sister and niece – Galain’s wife and daughter.
Hey all! Just a heads up, this chapter picks up right where What Has Returned ended, so if you haven’t made it to the end of book two yet, there are going to be plot spoilers in the following chapter.
The time Osmun had spent submerged in the darkness felt infinite. His senses had been blunted, and he was only inches away from complete nothingness save for the singular mercy that kept him tethered to himself.
But that mercy came with its own sharp edge, and Velskotahn used it to cut him countless times each day, each hour.
Osmun came to know his surroundings. Not like anything he had ever known, it was at first only the sensation of being trapped in the smallest space, not knowing the precise dimensions, but being able to feel only the isolation and the confinement. His tears and cries of anguish were heard by no one… except him. And Osmun could tell it brought him joy.
Time passed in ways he could not discern. He remained motionless, or so it seemed to him. He had no body, no form. He only retained the smallest fragment of what he was. His spirit… his power… what remained of it. Gradually he came accustomed to the prison in which his mind was trapped, and with that acclimation came change. He could do more than just hear the demonic taunts. He could see what his eyes saw, what Velskotahn saw. He could hear a monster’s words said with his voice.
The monster, as curious as a cruel child, looked within Osmun, saw his past, his memories, felt his thoughts and fears.
It was then that Osmun could look back into his captor.
It was like looking down a long corridor, one that stretched as far as Velskotahn had been alive. It seemed to go on forever.
At first he was only able to feel the most vague sense of the immensity of time that stretched out before him, each step through the corridor only a heartbeat in the life of a being that had existed for eons.
But at the same time that Osmun was confined to his prison, he was able to see more and more windows in that dark hallway, memories, events… Velskotahn could not hide them from him, or did not care to.
There were times he could feel Velskotahn’s power over him weakening, ever so slightly, and when it did, Osmun tried to escape, tried to break through the walls of his prison somehow. Sometimes he even felt the walls around him move, pushed back by the power he still had.
But it was never enough.
Much of it was darkness, the time Velskotahn spent imprisoned in some nameless abyss. And there were other things he wished he had not seen, visions of the world kept from mortal men. There were his enemies and vessels: one enemy, powerful like him, named Taur Valhan.
There was Xidius. The Beacon, the foundation upon which the Empire was built… Osmun watched for as long as he could, watched as Velskotahn used Xidius as his puppet, building his Church.
The Church to which Osmun and millions of others had given their lives.
All of it a lie.
And then he saw the Betrayer murder the Beacon. But the lie was already firm in place and could not be undone, even with Xidius’ death. Velskotahn would watch the world from the edges of existence as the Empire piled one conquest on another in the name of the Beacon.
But it was the darkness that they were serving. All this time, every victory won, every enemy defeated or absorbed, every spirit banished to the Beyond, was what he wanted all along.
They had been sowing the seeds of evil for hundreds of years, and Velskotahn had returned for the harvest.
Issue one – go.
There are not many things as tragic as watching a terrible movie. I mean, there are plenty of things as tragic, but as far as activities where you’re stationary on your couch, wasting your time watching a bad movie is up there.
So here is issue number one of me posting my thoughts on movies I’ve watched so that you might save yourself from the direst of tragedies – wasted time (I’m all about time management these days – probably the early onset of a midlife crisis).
Here goes… two movies that Katie the Wife and I watched on a recent movie night.
The Eyes of My Mother
I’m not sure how to describe the plot of this movie. A young woman lives alone but still manages to spend quality time with her family (the cadavers of her parents). Oh, and she’s basically Hannibal Lecter on a bad day.
The trailer makes the movie look suitably creepy, and there are a few parts that successfully evoke that same sense of unease. The problem, though, is that the main character is completely inaccessible to the audience. The opening scenes show a traumatic childhood event, but the rest of the film makes it quite clear that this event did not turn her into the psychopath she became; no, she was always that.
And it’s not like these types of characters – villains, murderers, and psychopaths – are always inaccessible (as with the case of the aforementioned Dr. Lecter). There was just nothing interesting about her. We don’t have to root for her or even like her, but there has to be something about her with which we can empathise. The first two thirds of the movie does not have a single character the audience should care about.
It would be unfair of me not to remark on something the movie did well. Leading up to the end of the second act, there had been a number of exceptionally violent acts that occurred off-screen, leaving the details to unfold in the audience’s imagination. But at the end of what could be the second act, overlapping into the start of the third, it finally happens onscreen. The result is… jarring.
I’m not sure what kind of rating system to use, if any, but out of “Should I Watch This?” I would rate it: “enh” (including over-exaggerated shrug).
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Anyway, we decided the night was young and that we had time for another. We also decided to get into a case of craft beer from Texas as well as cracking the seal on my new bottle of Black Label. Both of these were good choices… possibly even great choices.
I definitely enjoyed this one. A lot. And not just because we had full glasses… probably.
I’ll admit that I have a few buttons that I wish more horror movies would press, and this one pressed ’em. Button one: the mounting dread. With the paragon of this being John Carpenter’s Thing, I’m a big fan of stories where characters are in a very bad situation that they do not understand or cannot comprehend, and they slowly… slowly… start to realise it. And by the time they fully understand how bad the situation really is, it seems like there’s not a damn thing they can do about it.
This movie unfolded like that – almost literally. As the autopsy progressed, as the body was unfolded (forcibly and audibly, at times) a new, grisly clue emerged, and the mystery deepened. And while the ending may not have made perfect sense, I’m willing to overlook that based on everything this movie did right.
Button two: it wasn’t over-directed.
This is a gripe I have that extends to all genres. There are too many movies where people act as though they’re in a movie, acting and talking not in a normal way, but in a conspicuously dramatic way. This lighter touch really helped the slow burn of the film; the characters did believable things, said believable things, and reacted in believable ways.
So, out of “Should I Watch This?”, I’d give it a “I don’t know, if what I’ve described in the preceding paragraphs sounds like it would interest you and you think the trailer looks decent, I’d say give it a shot,” out of ten.
As of January 10th, I haven’t yet sent What Will Survive to the editor. There’s still an introductory chapter I need to write. In the meantime, though, I’m about twenty thousand words into my new story about a five people with varying magical abilities who decided to try to kill a tyrant king who lives in a floating tower and can see the future. How will they succeed? (or will they succeed?) Uhhh… still figuring that out.
Being an avid moviegoer and opinion-haver, I can’t help but be troubled by the recent trend of critics to jump onto bandwagons when it comes to certain movies.
In particular and most notably, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.
Now we could and should have a discussion about the positive vs negative effects that comic book movies have on the film industry overall, but I’m not going to explore that here. Instead I’m going to point out the limitations of film critics in how they are able to review these types of films.
Let me first direct your attention to Metacritic, but not to their film page – take a look at the list of scores on the music page (taken Aug 13th, 2016).
Take a look at those scores – pretty generous, right? The lowest one you’ll see is 65, which is actually still not bad. I certainly would have loved a score like that in my grade 12 math class. In fact, bad scores on the music page are pretty infrequent.
Why is that?
Well, it’s because critics of a certain type of music tend to already have an affinity for that type of music. A critic that typically reviews progressive metal or hardcore punk is probably not a critic whose review a pop or a country album you would put much weight in.
And it makes sense. Otherwise, you’re just going to have a lot of poor reviews of something simply because the reviewer was predisposed to that viewpoint.
So let’s go back to comic book movies. now. Most media outlets (not all) likely only have one film critic on staff. One critic to review prestige films, romcoms, action movies, horror films, etc etc. And I’d say that, on average, they are able to look at most movies as objectively as possible.
But I think that comic book movies are a bit different. Fans of Marvel/DC go into these movies with a foreknowledge of certain characters and their backstories and motivations. Film critics aren’t necessarily comic book fans (though I’m sure some are) and so there’s the likelihood that there are aspects and dimensions of these types of movies that only comic book and Marvel/DC fans appreciate. And guess what – these movies are made primarily for the fans.
Which is why we see critics panning movies like Batman v Superman, Warcraft, and Suicide Squad.
And I want to say that I enjoyed Batman v Superman. It certainly should have been better than it was, but it definitely deserves more than the 27% it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
I saw Warcraft and I enjoyed that, too. Again, a movie that could have been better, but I wanted to see a fantasy movie with magic and orcs and fighting, and that’s what I got. I have yet to see Suicide Squad, and despite the negative reviews, I’m sure it isn’t the festering cinematic abomination that critics are making it out to be.
Now to address the obvious objection: that Marvel movies in general get consistently good reviews. Admittedly, Marvel movies are more cohesive and better-written and thus deserve the praise that they get.
But they are also made to be the most palatable for the widest number of moviegoers, and this means sacrificing much of the authenticity to the source material (look at the contrast between Captain America: Civil War and the Civil War comic run). If you enjoy action-comedies, this probably doesn’t concern you at all, but one of the reasons I liked Batman v Superman was that it was at least trying something different. Whether or not it succeeded is a matter of opinion.
Perhaps I went a bit too far into the Marvel vs DC debate, but let me just wrap up by pointing out the vast differences between critic scores and viewer scores on aggregate sites like Metacritic. The larger the disparity, the more we should be asking ourselves whether the movie was made for critics or for the fans.
It’s nearly July. So what’s going on?
Well, let’s do a quick recap.
I have book one, What Was Forgotten, available for free most places (Amazon, Kobo, iTunes – and on this website, of course).
I have book two, What Has Returned, which was just released a few weeks ago. And it’s also free – kind of (in exchange for subscribing to my mailing list). And I’ll tell you right now, both of these were hard work. Like, really hard. And I hope that comes across in the stories themselves (not the struggle, but the effort).
Anyone who has written a book before may know the feeling of being halfway through and hitting a point of brutal self-realisation that you don’t really have a great grasp on what’s going on, or whether it’s any good. I had such a realisation several times, at least. It’s not fun. Maybe it’s just par for the course. In any case, I managed to move past it, which brings me up to the present.
I’m working on three things at the moment:
- Book three in the series – tentatively titled “What Will Survive”
- A standalone featuring the intrepid scoundrel Myron Petral, set before we meet him in book one
- A fantasy project which may entail both novels and short stories set in a completely new and unique world (I don’t want to reveal anything at the moment, and perhaps not until the first story is ready).
On top of all of that, I signed up for Nick Stephenson’s course on building your author platform. It’s tough to balance all of these things, plus a full time job, family, and making time for friends. If anyone recalls how many cups of coffee Fry had to drink in Futurama where everything slowed down for him, please let me know – I’d really like to get to that point.
I just discovered the show Rick and Morty… It must be the greatest thing ever.
As homage to Rick, I think my next D&D character will be a chaotic neutral wizard with a drinking problem.
Any other Rick and Morty fans? D&D players? Likers of things in general?